D.C., 1 October 2004
- Secretary of State Henry Kissinger berated
top aides for State Department efforts in 1976 to restrain human
rights abuses by military dictators in Chile and Argentina, according
to newly declassified transcripts of Mr. Kissinger's telephone
calls ("telcons") posted on the Web today by the National
Security Archive at George Washington University.
"This is not an institution that is going to humiliate the
Chileans," Kissinger told his Assistant Secretary on Latin
America, William D. Rogers, on the phone, after a U.S. diplomat
had publicly supported an OAS human rights report on the Pinochet
regime's abuses in June 1976. "It is a bloody outrage."
After learning later that month that other State Department officials
had issued a demarche to the new military junta in Argentina out
of concern for the growing number of political assassinations
and disappearances, Kissinger called another aide and demanded
to know "in what way is it compatible with my policy."
The June 30, 1976, telcon records Kissinger as stating: "I
want to know who did this and consider having him transferred."
The Archive obtained 3200 Kissinger telcons last week through
a Freedom of Information Act request to the State Department.
Some 1900 additional telcons are still under review by agencies
other than State. During Mr. Kissinger's tenure first as national
security adviser to Presidents Nixon and Ford starting in 1969
and then as Secretary of State from 1973 through 1976, his secretaries
listened in on his phone calls - unbeknownst to most of the other
callers - and typed these almost verbatim transcripts. Mr. Kissinger
took the telcons with him when he left office in January 1977,
and the State Department only recovered copies in August 2001
after the National Security Archive initiated legal action. Earlier
this year, the National Archives and Records Administration released
the telcons from Kissinger's White House years, a set which NARA
acquired in February 2002 also as a result of the National Security
Archive analyst William Burr, whose FOIA request generated this
document release, said, "I applaud the Department's publication of these documents on its FOIA
Electronic Reading Room and making them available
to the widest possible audience."
In addition to the Latin America human rights telcons, today's
posting includes historic conversations such as the phone call
informing Mr. Kissinger that Saigon had just surrendered in April
1975, the Soviet ambassador's commiseration on President Ford
losing the 1976 election, Mr. Kissinger's call to the senior Chinese
diplomat in Washington expressing condolences on the death of
Chairman Mao, and Kissinger phone calls with journalists such
as Time's Hugh Sidey and ABC's Ted Koppel.
The declassified telephone communications on Latin America capture
Secretary Kissinger's opposition to using U.S. diplomacy to denounce
repression in Latin America. In preparation for a private meeting
with General Augusto Pinochet in June 1976, Kissinger told Rogers
"I would like to have a talk with him and…I am not
on the same wavelength with you guys on this [human rights] business.
I just am not eager to overthrow these guys." When Rogers
protested that the issues of who governed Chile and what they
did about human rights were distinct, according to the June 3
transcript, Kissinger responded: "I know but I think we are
systematically undermining them."
The transcripts will allow historians to listen in on some of
the most extraordinary private conversations, held by the world's
most powerful policy makers at pivotal moments in international
history. In one dramatic conversation on April 29, 1975, a wire
service reporter, Ken Fried, called Kissinger to tell him that
Saigon had collapsed and announced "an unconditional surrender
to the VC." Kissinger is recorded as asking: "Is it
true?" The documents also record his conversation in mid-April
with top aide Philip Habib on the evacuation of Phnom Penh in
the face of the approaching Khmer Rouge forces.
Among the documents obtained by the Archive were multiple conversations
with the leading journalists of the day - muckraker Jack Anderson
and conservative editor William F. Buckley. At times the conversations
covered breaking news; but they also included dinner invitations,
political gossip, and discussion of the 1976 election between
Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
The Archive also posted a January 16, 1976, conversation
with singer Frank Sinatra, an old friend of Kissinger's.
In it, the two discuss the crisis in Angola and Kissinger jokes
that the U.S. government might necessitate some of Sinatra's "enforcers"--a
reference to his reputed ties to the mafia--to help, since Congress
had terminated funds for CIA covert operations to support Angolan
Among the 1900 telcons that the State Department has withheld
pending review of other agencies are Kissinger's phone conversations
with President Gerald Ford. Presumably also under review are telcons
with Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense during
1975-1977. While the release includes several telcons with Director
of Central Intelligence William Colby, there are no records of
conversations with his successor, George H.W. Bush. They may be
under review at the CIA. The State Department has also withheld
Kissinger's discussions with the CIA chiefs during that time period,
including those with George Herbert Walker Bush, who served as
director of Central Intelligence during the last year of the Ford
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1: Telcon with Latin America aide Henry Schlaudeman, 30 June 1976
In this brief conversation, Henry Kissinger berates his aide
after learning that the State Department's Latin America bureau
has issued a demarche to the Argentine military junta for escalating
death squad operations, disappearances and reports of torture
following the coup in March 1976. The demarche was recommended
by Ambassador Robert Hill and conveyed by him to Foreign Minister
Guzzetti on May 27. A similar message was given to the Argentine
ambassador in Washington D.C. by one of Schlaudeman's deputies,
Hewson Ryan. But the demarche appears to contradict a message
that Kissinger has personally given to Guzzetti during a private
meeting in Santiago on June 10; to act "as quickly as possible"
to repress leftist forces in Argentina.
Now Kissinger demands to know "in what way is it
[the demarche] compatible with my policy." He tells Schlaudeman:
"I want to know who did this and consider having him transferred."
2: Telcon with Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America
William Rogers, 3 June 1976
As Kissinger prepared for his trip give a speech at the OAS conference
in Santiago, Chile, he spoke to his assistant secretary William
Rogers about whether he would privately meet with General Augusto
Pinochet alone, or include a notetaker. During the conversation
Kissinger makes it clear that he disagrees with efforts to pressure
Pinochet to stop violating human rights, and equates such diplomacy
with efforts to weaken and overthrow the military regime. "I
am not on the same wavelength with you guys about this business,"
Kissinger tells Rogers. "I just am not eager to overthrow
these guys." During his meeting with Pinochet on June 8th
in Santiago, Kissinger told the Chilean dictator that "in
the United States, as you know, we are sympathetic with what you
are trying to do here. I think that the previous government was
headed toward Communism. We wish your government well." A
declassified transcript of the meeting is published in full in
The Pinochet File:
A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability,
by Archive analyst Peter Kornbluh. Kissinger's meeting with Pinochet,
and with Argentine officials in Santiago, is also chronicled in
The Condor Years
by Archive advisory board member John Dinges.
3: Telcon with Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America,
William Rogers, 16 June 1976
On June 16, following his visit to Chile, and his meeting with
Pinochet, Kissinger reads an article in the Washington Post reporting
on remarks made by Robert White, a member of the State Department
delegation to the OAS conference. White has criticized the Pinochet
regime for rejecting the OAS report on ongoing human rights abuses
in Chile. Unbeknownst to White, only a few days earlier, Kissinger
has privately told Pinochet that "we want to help, not undermine
you." Now Kissinger is angry that a U.S. official has publicly
challenged Pinochet on his human rights record. "This is
not an institution that is going to humiliate the Chileans,"
he states. "It is a bloody outrage." Kissinger suggests
to Rogers that they fire White. "Why don't we get him out?,"
4: Telcon with Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and
Pacific Affairs Philip Habib, 11 April 1975, 9:07 a.m.
With the wars in Southeast Asia coming to an end, the U.S. client
government in Cambodia had collapsed under the weight of a Khmer
Rouge offensive. Lon Nol and his family had fled and a caretaker
government was in free fall. Washington hoped that former Premier
Sihanouk, exiled in Beijing since the 1970 coup, would try to
form a coalition government but he recognized that the Khmer Rouge
had no interest in sharing power. With the capital city, Phnom
Penh, in jeopardy, the Ford administration was about to implement
Operation Eagle Pull, to evacuate Ambassador John Gunther Dean
and other U.S. nationals from the city. Here Kissinger discusses
with Habib the dire situation in Phnom Penh and details of the
evacuation plan. As he was wont to do, Kissinger cast aspersions--"the
sob" and "if we had a sane Secretary of Defense"--at
Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, with whom he had just
spoken about Cambodia. Some portions of the discussion are slightly
obscure; it was clear that Kissinger had been angry at Habib for
the latter's "lecture in front of everybody" during
a meeting (possibly the Washington Special Action Group) the day
before. They briefly discuss their personal relationship and Kissinger
apparently jokes about Habib's Arab background. Habib clearly
did not take the comments seriously because he rejoined "we
semis [Semites] have to get along you know." Eagle Pull began
that day and it involved helicopters as Dean and Habib had insisted.
5: Telcon with Ken Fried, 29 April 1975, 10:31 p.m.
As the Saigon regime in South Vietnam collapsed, Kissinger kept
late hours at his office. Earlier that day, Washington had initiated
another evacuation plan, Operation Frequent Wind, to withdraw
U.S. personnel and key Vietnamese allies. President Nguyen Van
Thieu had already resigned and General Duong Van "Big Minh"
Minh (who had been ousted in a 1964 coup) had come to power. Here
wire service reporter Ken Fried called him with startling news:
Minh had just surrendered to the "VC" (Viet Cong), a
reference to North Vietnam's People's Liberation Armed Forces
(PLAF) and South Vietnamese fighters of the People's Revolutionary
Government (PRG). Kissinger had not yet heard this but denied
to Fried that he was surprised by the news. After some discussion
of the future of Southeast Asia, Kissinger begs off, noting that
the day before he had stayed up until 3:30 a.m. (Note
AND THE DEATH OF MAO
6: Telcon with Huang Zhen, Director of People's Republic of China
Liaison Office, 9 September 1976, 9:45 a.m.
Having learned that Mao Zedong had just died, Kissinger called
the senior Chinese diplomat in Washington to express his condolences.
Though identified as an ambassador, Zhen did not have ambassadorial
status because Beijing and Washington did not yet have normal
diplomatic relations. They had liaison offices but not embassies.
As Kissinger noted, the United States intended to "continue
the policy of normalization," but the Ford administration
had not achieved the diplomatic breakthrough that Kissinger and
Nixon had promised in 1971-1972. Beijing insisted that diplomatic
normalization required breaking formal ties with Taiwan but that
was the last thing that Ford wanted to do before the 1976 presidential
election. In light of his need to win the support of the strongly
pro-Taiwan Reagan right in the campaign, Ford took a most cautious
course on diplomatic relations with China.
7: Telcon with Hugh Sidey, 10 September 1976, 7:33 p.m.
The next day Kissinger spoke with Time Magazine writer
Hugh Sidey about a story on the Kissinger-Mao relationship that
Sidey had prepared. Sidey had excellent access to Kissinger (it
did not hurt that Time had named Nixon and Kissinger
"Man of the Year" for 1972) and they plainly had a smooth
working relationship. Here Sidey reads from the draft and Kissinger
corrects it line by line. Determined to keep the U.S.-China relationship
as smooth as possible, Kissinger carefully amended and weeded
out language that could get him and U.S. policy in trouble with
Beijing. As he advised Sidey, "The less you can ascribe to
me the better off I am."
PRESS LEAKS, AND THE OPEN MIKE FLAP
8: Telcon with Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, 16 October
1975, 12:03 p.m.
That morning started badly for Kissinger; the Washington
Post published a story on remarks he had made during an official
dinner in Ottawa only a few days earlier. (Note 3)
He was sitting near a microphone that had been left on and the
press listened to the entire dinner repartee. Aided by a tape
prepared by a Canadian radio journalist, the press heard, and
reported on, Kissinger's more or less unvarnished views of Richard
Nixon and John F. Kennedy, among others. According to reporting
in the Post and the New York Times, Kissinger
said that Nixon was "one of our better presidents" but
that he was also "an odd, artificial, and unpleasant man."
As for Kennedy, his first two years were a "disaster"
and he had "not done anything very substantial" by the
time of his death. Kissinger told Butz that he was "upset"
about that story but it was not the only newspaper report that
bothered him. That same day the Post had also published
a story, "Butz Loses Power to Set Food Policy," that
discussed a shift in control over exports of food, especially
grain, to Communist countries, with the State Department taking
a greater role in policymaking. Butz was not too happy about the
shift in authority--I'm "tired of being treated like a cross-eyed
step-child"--but what particularly incensed Kissinger was
a quote discussing the then-current embargo on grain sales to
Poland in order to prevent Warsaw from selling the grain to the
Soviets. A U.S. official was quoted as saying that "They
wanted to use Poland to hold the Soviet Union's feet to the fire"
as pressure to get a long-term agreement on grain exports. As
Kissinger explained to Butz, any hint that the United States was
trying to apply economic coercion on the Soviets "creates
unbelievable resentments in Moscow."
9a and b:
a. Telcon with Julie Eisenhower,
1 November 1975, 3:15 p.m.
b. Telcon with Tricia Nixon
Cox, 4 November 1975, 4:35 p.m.
The flap over the indiscretions in Ottawa did not end quickly.
Kissinger had to apologize to Nixon; then he received a letter
from an offended Tricia Nixon. Unfortunately for Kissinger he
got the two daughters mixed up; after a rather convoluted attempt
at explanation, he realized that it was Tricia, not Julie, who
had written the letter. Several days later, he caught up with
Tricia Nixon Cox and tried to put the best face on his remarks:
"I never said any of these things in a coherent conversation."
If Kissinger had been less than careful on November 1 about who
had written the letter, it might have been because he was still
reeling from the "Halloween Massacre" engineered by
Ford's chief of staff Donald Rumsfeld. Several days earlier Kissinger
had learned that President Ford had demoted him by removing him
from his post as national security adviser (replacing him with
his deputy Brent Scowcroft). Kissinger had adversaries on the
Republican right and was becoming somewhat of a political liability
to Ford, who had to think about his re-election chances. While
Kissinger retained his post as Secretary of State, he had been
cut down to size so it did not look like he dominated Ford's national
security policy. He had considered resigning but decided that
he wanted to keep his influence in government.
10: Telcon with Jack Anderson, 5 June 1975, 3:10 p.m.
A call from Jack Anderson must have set off alarm signals in
Kissinger's mind. As writer of a widely-syndicated column,
Washington Merry Go Round (originally established decades
earlier by Drew Pearson), Anderson was famous for his assiduous
and successful efforts at developing governmental contacts that
were often the source of leaked documents. For example, Anderson's
contacts provided him with memcons of Washington Special Actions
Group deliberations during the 1971 South Asian war. While the
call might have worried Kissinger, rather than refusing it he
tried to manage the situation as best as he could. In this instance,
Anderson had gotten hold of a document about a 19 December 1973
meeting between Kissinger and the former French Foreign Minister
Michel Jobert, where the two discussed oil prices, U.S. attitudes
toward the Shah of Iran, and the question of military action against
the oil producers. Kissinger provided his own spin on Anderson's
account but strongly denied that there had been any interest in
military action, "total nonsense," he argued. Kissinger
vainly tried to get Anderson to identify the source. Interestingly,
a U.S. record of the Jobert-Kissinger talk has been declassified
among State Department records, but it does not include specific
discussion of the Shah and only hints at a tough stance toward
the oil producers. (Note 3a) While Anderson
mentions that he got some information from the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, one wonders where Committee members or staffers
got details on the talks. (In the available U.S. record, Jobert
refers to discussion in the car, so perhaps there was some record
of that). In any event, despite Kissinger's denial about the use
of force against Arab oil producers, recently declassified British
documents show that the Nixon administration had at least considered
the possibility of sending in troops to seize oil fields in Saudi
Arabia and Abu Dhabi during the 1973-74 oil embargo. (Note
11: Telcon with James Schlesinger, 5 November 1975, 5:55 p.m.
Kissinger suffered least from the "Halloween Massacre."
Ford fired Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and CIA Director
William Colby. Ford did not get along with the seemingly haughty
and condescending Schlesinger, while both Ford and Kissinger believed
that Colby had spilled too many Agency secrets. Kissinger had
often carped about Schlesinger and sometimes their bureaucratic
rivalry was fierce but he did not want him to go. Their thinking
about most issues was compatible, while Schlesinger's successor,
Donald Rumsfeld, proved to be a source of real anguish. In this
conversation with Schlesinger, Kissinger extends his regret and
the two muse over their relationship. Schlesinger observed that
Kissinger's "suspiciousness" had not helped and the
latter admitted to some "minor league harassment" which
he correctly pointed out was not the "cause for what happened."
12: Telcon with William F. Buckley, 21 July 1975, 5:03 p.m.
Kissinger had been friendly with National Review editor
William F. Buckley for some years. As is evident from this document,
the two got along very well socially but the highly ideological
Buckley was often uncomfortable with the direction of the more
pragmatic Nixon/Kissinger diplomacy, on détente and China
policy, for example. (Note 6) Here the two discuss
a deferred plan for dinner, ex-Kissinger aide Morton Halperin's
lawsuit against Kissinger, and the impending signing of the Helsinki
treaty, and Kissinger's annoyance at conservative criticism of
the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Kissinger
was a little defensive because the conservatives had been criticizing
the CSCE for validating the boundaries of post-World War II Europe.
Kissinger makes plain his well known indifference to the CSCE:
"It isn't something I'm proud of." The State Department's
excisions of the comments on the well-known Halperin case against
Kissinger are good examples of the abuse of the privacy exemption
in processing these documents.
13: Telcon with Frank Sinatra, 16 January 1976, 8:09 p.m.
Integral to Kissinger's celebrity status was a close relationship
with well-known personalities in the entertainment business; his
friendship with Frank Sinatra, which dated back to Nixon's first
term, was one element of that side of Kissinger's life. When Sinatra
called the crisis over Angola was ebbing but it was on Sinatra's
mind as well as Kissinger's. With the U.S. Congress barring CIA
intervention in Angola, Kissinger jokingly hoped that he needed
some of Sinatra's "enforcers" to straighten the situation
out. Sinatra might not have appreciated the allusion to the Mafia,
but he was calling for a favor. He was helping with arrangements
for a dinner for a Prime Minister, probably Itzak Rabin, who would
be visiting Los Angeles. Sinatra wanted Kissinger to speak at
the event and the latter readily agreed; but he still wanted a
"few of your people."
14: Telcon with Ted Koppel, 15 January 1975, 9:45 a.m.
At the Moscow summit in May 1972 Nixon and Kissinger had discussed
with the Soviets arrangements to apply the most-favored-nation
(MFN) principle to U.S.-Soviet trade as well as extend large credits
through the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Kissinger was especially
interested in the credits which he believed would give the White
House "leverage" over Moscow. As he explained to Zhou
Enlai in June 1972, the U.S. could regulate the supply of credit
so "we can turn it off if their political behavior becomes
threatening either against us or against countries whose survival
we consider essential." (Note 7) What neither
Nixon and Kissinger or the Soviets would ever have anticipated
was that influential Congressional Democrats would successfully
link trade policy to the Soviet Union's efforts to check the emigration
of Soviet Jewry to Israel. An amendment to the administration's
trade bill developed by Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson
and Representative Charles Vanik (D-OH) did exactly that--the
Soviets would not get MFN as long as they imposed burdensome financial
restrictions on Jewish emigration. By the end of 1974 Congress
had approved Jackson-Vanik and severely restricted the possibilities
for Eximbank credits to the Soviet Union. The Soviets were shocked,
having believed that the White House would never allow such events
come to pass. As can be seen in this document, when the legislation
was enacted in January, ABC news reported that the development
was a "setback" for Henry Kissinger and the cause of
détente. Kissinger had heard only a partial account of
the coverage, which he thought had been misleading; to correct
the record he called up Ted Koppel, with whom he had developed
a friendly relationship. The call turned friendlier when Koppel
briefed Kissinger on the coverage and the discussion led Kissinger
to muse over the implications. What most concerned him, a point
he made repeatedly, was that "we have lost the leverage."
15: Telcon with Jerry Bremer, 9 July 1975, 9:52 a.m.
Long before he was administrator of the Coalition Provisional
Authority in Iraq, L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer III, served
as Kissinger's executive assistant. A career foreign service officer
with a Harvard MBA, Bremer had to make sure that his boss was
happy, whether it was getting the right kind of plane for travel
to the Midwest, whether a Congressman would get a ride, or whether
he would get to dinner by 6:00 p.m. Apparently, Kissinger was
most happy with Bremer's performance because the latter joined
Kissinger Associates when he retired from the State Department
at the end of the 1980s. (Note 9)
16: Telcon with Ambassador Dobrynin, 3 November 1976, 4:30 p.m.
Beginning early in Nixon's first term, Kissinger had forged a
close and increasingly friendly relationship with Dobrynin, the
chief diplomatic representative of the Soviet adversary. Together
they had established the "back channel" to Moscow, weathered
crises in the Middle East and elsewhere, and privately negotiated
key elements of the SALT I agreement and other elements of the
U.S.-Soviet détente. In the shadow of President Ford's
electoral defeat, Dobrynin called up Kissinger to express his
regrets about the outcome. No doubt the Soviets were a little
nervous about president-elect Jimmy Carter and would have preferred
the more familiar Ford-Kissinger policy. Kissinger was touched
by the call from his "Marxist friend." The last part
of the conversation refers to State Department comments to the
press about the emigration of Soviet Jews which Kissinger had
previously told Dobrynin had been badly worded.
1. Jussi Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect:
Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2004), p. 392.
2. For events on the ground, see Larry Berman,
No Peace No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam
(New York, The Free Press, 2001), pp. 266-273.
3. 'Kissinger Calls Nixon `Unpleasant,'"
Washington Post, 16 October 1975. See also "Kissinger
Apologizes for Overheard Words on Nixon," New York Times,
17 October 1975.
3a. See “Secretary’s Conversation
with Foreign Minister Jobert,” 19 December 1973, National
Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Records
of Henry Kissinger, 1973-1977, box 3.
4. See Glenn Frankel, "U.S. Mulled Seizing
Oil Fields In '73; British Memo Cites Notion of Sending Airborne
to Mideast," Washington Post, 1 January 2004.
5. For details on the "Halloween Massacre"
and the Ford-Schlesinger relationship, see Walter Isaacson, Kissinger:
A Biography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p. 623,
669-67; Hanhimaki, Flawed Architect, pp. 427-433.
6. For the Buckley-Kissinger relationship, see
John B. Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr., Patron Saint of the
Conservatives (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988).
7. Memorandum of conversation, 21 June 1972,
3:25 p.m,, National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials Project,
HAK Office Files, box 97, Dr. Kissinger's Visit to PRC June 1972
8. Isaacson, Kissinger, pp. 611-621;
Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect, pp. 379-380. See also
Raymond Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, 2nd
edition (Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution, 1994), pp. 506-508.
9. Isaacson, Kissinger, pp. 591, 733,
734, and 735.